Italian food, the marinara, the meatballs, the mozzarella, and all that garlic, is the best iteration there is of winter comfort food. One of my favorite parts of winter is walking into an apartment, a house, or a restaurant, that emanates the warmth of slow cooking food and all the welcoming, savory smells that come along with it. Pasta Jay’s on Pearl Street is one such pocket of warmth and coziness here in Boulder that is a must visit at any time of year, but especially when the air is chilly, the snow is falling, and the body is craving something hot, hearty, and delicious.
Just a few blocks off of Pearl Street Mall, Pasta Jay’s has been a Boulder staple since the 1980s and was the first recommendation of many people when I asked them where I could find a great local Italian meal after I moved here. While the outdoor patio area and bar-style seating on the sidewalk are extremely popular when the weather is warm, the cozy indoor tables and bar make you feel like you’re in Jay’s own dining room, living up to the restaurant’s motto that Pasta Jay’s is “A restaurant you can call home!” With quintessential red and white checkerboard tablecloths and enveloping brick walls, Pasta Jay’s has the familiarity of a classic Italian venue that will have you humming Billy Joel’s “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” throughout your meal.
The menu items at Pasta Jay’s, both the familiar and the unique, are what make it stand out, as they are not only savory, but absolutely daydream-worthy. From Jay’s Famous Jumbo Shells to Buffalo Ravioli to Gnocchi Catalina, the baked pasta dishes come out of the oven and straight to your table with the sauce still steaming and the cheese still bubbling. Aside from the entrees, there are macaroni and cheese options, there is pizza, there are delicious cold appetizers such as the classic Caprese Salad, and there are specials each night of the week, such as “World Famous Monday Night Spaghetti Night” and Friday’s “White Clam Night” with a breadth of other seafood options as well. For first time visitors or for those who simply cannot decide, “The Hagan Option” gives you the opportunity to choose partial servings of three signature baked meat and pasta dishes all baked into one sampler to end all samplers. Naturally, on top of it all, the wine is always flowing and the garlic bread is never in shortage.
Since first opening at Pearl Street & 9th in 1988, Pasta Jay’s has grown to include two more locations in Lone Tree and Moab, UT, as well. Pasta Jay’s now caters, publishes a newsletter, and maintains a blog called Friends of Pasta Jay. And lest we forget, their signature marinara sauce has grown to be so popular that the restaurant now bottles and sells it in their locations, online, and in select local markets. The establishment is likewise entrenched in the Boulder community, with a strong tradition of employing University of Colorado Boulder’s Buff athletes as well as a strong tradition of continuously winning various Boulder restaurant awards.
Whether you’re a Boulder fitness buff carbing up for a race, a newly transplanted New Yorker looking to find the Boulder equivalent to Little Italy fare, a runner, hiker, or biker trying to warm up with a big meal after a chilly outdoor winter jaunt, or just an average food lover shamelessly dreaming of ricotta and tortellini, Pasta Jay’s is a wonderful Boulder venue to gather with friends and family for a meal. Quite simply, it is absolutely delicious.
Photo credit: Pasta Jay’s